Angkar, which loosely translated to “the organization” in the Khmer language was to become one of the most feared words in Democratic Kampuchea, and even today holds negative connotations.

The rise of Angkar

Whilst the Khmer Rouge were well known as a socialist revolutionary group, the name of the party and indeed who led it were shrouded in intense mystery. After the fall of Phnom Penh and the emptying of the Cambodian cities into the countryside the Communist Party of Kampuchea/Government of Democratic Kampuchea declared to themselves as Angkar (Khmer: អង្គការ; pronounced ahngkah; meaning The Organization).

From April 17th 1975 until 29th September 1977 this was all Cambodians really knew about who was governing them and their country.

Throughout the history of the CPK and the Khmer Rouge secrecy had been needed in order to protect against internal and external enemies, both real and imagined, and for the first two years of the existence of Democratic Kampuchea this was to continue.

Despite its short existence the Khmer Rouge leaders had an obsession that there were internal enemies everywhere. This was a large reason so many people ended up in the Killing Fields.

On September 29th 1977 during a 5 hours long speech Pol Pot revealed the leadership of Democratic Kampuchea and that it was led by the Communist Party of Kampuchea.

Why did they decide to reveal themselves?

At the time there were hour stories starting to come out of Cambodia about excesses of the revolution, China at the time was the only country to publicly and economically back Democratic Kampuchea. Pol Pot the leaders of the Khmer was due to visit Beijing to meet communist leaders there, so was pressured by his hosts to reveal the true nature of the revolution.

During the coming out speech  Pol Pot retconned the foundation of the party to 1960 in order to distance himself from the communists in Vietnam, who were his new perceived enemies.

It was only a year later with the regime on the brink of collapse that Pol Pot was recognized as the mild mannered teacher known as Solath Sar, the General-Secretary of the Communist Party of Kampuchea.

For those who remember the killing fields though the words Angkar and Year Zero are equated as one and the same with the Khmer Rouge.